From 1939 to 1945, 6 million Jews were systematically murdered on the basis of their ethnicity in Germany. Jewish homes were destroyed and families were torn apart. Jewish businesses were ransacked. Jewish places of worship were vandalized and burned. Jewish books and scriptures were set on fire. This genocide left scars and intergenerational traumas that may never heal.
On Feb. 11, a conservative actress appeared to have felt that people around her hated her because of her “political views,” feeling attacked most likely because she could not post transphobic and conspiratorial content on her social media platforms without being called out for it. Her name is Gina Carano, and you may recognize her from her breakout role in the hit series, “The Mandalorian.”
So, how are these two situations similar? Spoiler alert: they are not in any way whatsoever.
And yet, in a stunning and utterly abhorrent act of ignorance, historical revisionism and insensitivity, Carano reposted an image equating being hated for such “political views” in America today to what Jews went through during the Holocaust. “How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?” the post said in reference to an image of Jews being beaten and rounded up in the streets because of their Jewish heritage.
That which should go without saying now warrants extra emphasis: that the innocent people who were murdered in gas chambers and firing squads just for being Jewish, queer, Roma or Freemasons are not tokens to equate yourself to whenever you get called out for something you say on Twitter or Instagram.
To be clear, drawing analogies to the Holocaust is not the problem, the problem is equating things that happen today to the Holocaust, as if they’re somehow the same. Every time we do that, we demean and devalue the memory and the weight of this atrocity. We dishonor the memory of those we lost. We give space and legitimacy to those who would seek to minimize or deny the Holocaust.
Misrepresentation, minimization and even outright denial of the Holocaust are alive and well in America. So, too, is an apparent approval of the Holocaust. It was not long ago, after all, that a man stormed our Capitol with a hoodie that read “Camp Auschwitz: Work Brings Freedom.”
In a nationwide survey of millennials and Gen Z, 49% of respondents reported having seen posts denying or distorting the Holocaust on social media, and 63% of respondents did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Thirty-six percent even reported believing the number was 2 million or less.
Despite the lack of Holocaust education in America, the Holocaust has made its mark as a staple in discourse today. This is both a blessing and a curse. To see people around the world taking lessons from the Holocaust and allowing those lessons to inform our moral obligations on how we should treat each other is a wonderful thing. And it’s hard to overstate how important that is.
Analyzing the Holocaust, in addition to other genocides, is what culminated in the 10 Stages of Genocide outlined by the Genocide Watch in 1996. These stages now serve as the nearly universal warning signs to look out for genocide and developing human rights crises in countries today. And yes, many of those signs can be observed as having happened in the United States in the last four years and throughout our nation’s history.
But no, this thing called “cancel culture” and the Holocaust are not even remotely similar, that should be plain to see. Also worth noting is that, contrary to what some may believe, enforcing mask-wearing during a pandemic is not comparable to slavery. These deeply flawed and misinformed comparisons underscore a disturbing lack of understanding of our history that remains incredibly problematic.
I would be the first to say that we should not take for granted that the horrifying trends of our past won’t repeat themselves in new ways, shapes or forms. After all, even though we notice it less, and even though so much about these atrocities has changed, genocide is not yet gone from the world, and neither is slavery.
With this in mind, it remains imperative to look to horrors of the past such as the Holocaust and the Atlantic Slave Trade to inform ourselves of what we can do to make sure that we are not bystanders and that today’s atrocities may never reach those points again. It’s important that we can work toward permanently dismantling these mechanisms of systemic hate, like genocide and slavery, and that we understand when drawing parallels from the past to the present is appropriate, and when it is most certainly not.
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